Costly commissions of inquiry will create a more accountable public service
Taxpayers and citizens are guaranteed better services, and a reduction in the cost of these services is perhaps possible at last
It is estimated that the commissions of inquiry into allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud in the public sector including organs of state; into tax administration and governance by Sars; into allegations of impropriety regarding the PIC; and into the fitness of Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi to hold office will cost the taxpayer about R1bn. But in the long run, SA is guaranteed a more accountable and responsive public service.
The creation of a more accountable and credible public service in which taxpayers and citizens are guaranteed better services and perhaps a reduction in cost of these services is possible at last.
Many economist have calculated that the cost of corruption and maladministration runs into billions of rands and during the last ten years it is suggested this impact was most dire on the poor.
But in 2018 it was whistleblowers and an active citizenry that made enough noise and brought about these four commissions of inquiry that would prove to be the most defining since democracy.
Chaired by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, the Zondo commission, appointed to investigate allegations of state capture, is a result of a complaint to the public protector who in her report promoted this idea.
With a price tag of about R500m once done, the commission that has already received evidence from numerous witnesses will still hear about 200 people providing evidence.
It was important that all these commissions of inquiry were broadcast live and that newspapers and social media dedicated sufficient coverage to all
The inquiry into the administration at Sars, chaired by judge Robert Nugent, concluded its work at the end of 2018 and it resulted in the dismissal of the Sars boss Tom Moyane.
The inquiry into the fitness of the head of the NPA’s specialised commercial crime unit, Lawrence Mrwebi and the deputy director of public prosecutions, Nomgcobo Jiba, chaired by retired judge Yvonne Mokgoro, also resulted in the dismissal of both.
It was important that all these commissions of inquiry were broadcast live and that newspapers and social media dedicated sufficient coverage to all. Such publicity is not only important to remind society of what is not allowed and should be condemned but it also shows the level of public scrutiny that public servants should justifiably be subjected to in the execution of their duties. Moreover, while it exposes the rot and the malfeasance in the public sector, it also serves as a clear warning to all that society will no longer tolerate such behaviour and that the highest penalty will be demanded henceforth.
This also emboldens whistleblowers who have become intolerant to corruption and who are acutely aware of the impact of corruption and maladministration on their own livelihoods and their professional reputations through association with these companies and institutions. It is therefore predicted that more “good” people will come forward to protect themselves and their jobs if their livelihoods are threatened by the “bad”.
Another consequence of corruption in the public service is that, when exposed to it and when it is done with such impunity, the state loses the best skills and expertise as these professionals can no longer be associated with institutions in which corruption is rife or where their professional advice is ignored or rather sought to circumvent a law or to manipulate a system. Professionals chose rather to leave the public service and ply their skills in environments where they are safe, their career prospects are secured, and the organisational culture encourages honesty and integrity.
It is therefore also envisioned that the state and state-owned enterprises will again become employers of choice and that the internal organisational cultures will change to prevent the season of commissions seen throughout 2018 and the first part of 2019.
Keeping public servants accountable is not the most difficult task. It encourages them to always act in the best interests of those they serve, even in the prevailing conditions that made them forget who the real boss actually is.
The price we pay for these important commissions might be too high now, but it holds particular benefits for all. In the long run, a better, more credible, efficient and accountable government would make this valuable investment worth it.
• Adendorf is an integrity and reputation management consultant and MD of Reputegrity Compliance and Ethics Solutions.